Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy

For other people named Trubetskoy, see: Trubetskoy
Prince Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy (1905)

Prince Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy (1863–1905) was a Russian religious philosopher. He was the son of Prince Nikolai Petrovitch Trubetskoy, co-founder of the Moscow Conservatory, and Sophia Alekseievna Lopouchina. His mother was a big influence on his religious thought. He and his brother, Evgenii Nikolaevitch Troubetzkoy (1863-1920), continued Vladimir Solovyov's work on developing a modern Christian philosophy of the world. He was a Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University.

He was also a founding members Beseda.[1]


Early life

As a teenager S. N. Trubetskoy was an adherent of the British Positivists, Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill. Later he became disappointed with both and turned to Schopenhauer. Study of his philosophy led Trubetskoy to a conclusion that Schopenhauer's pessimism was the result of denial of God. Trubetskoy himself described this dilemma the following way: "Either God exists or life is not worth living". He became an Orthodox Christian, and also an adherent of the Slavophiles: his beliefs at that time were influenced by the writings of Aleksey Khomyakov.

In 1885 Trubetskoy graduated from Moscow University; but he continued to work there until his death, lecturing in philosophy.


In 1886 he became acquainted with the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, who held largely the same views about religion as Trubetskoy and became his close friend.

In 1890 Trubetskoy became Professor of Philosophy in Moscow University. Later he played a significant role in the Russian liberal movement; he was a founding member of Beseda.[1]

Sergey Trubetskoy was one of several philosophers who complained that there in practice was no real autocracy, as all the entanglement of government agencies made it unsure where the power truly lay; in 1900 he wrote: 'There is an autocracy of policemen and land captains, of governors department heads, and ministers, but a unitary Tsarist autocracy, in the proper sense of the word, does not and cannot exist'.[2]

In 1904 the Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University wrote of the conflict with Japan, contending that Russia was defending the entire European civilisation from 'the yellow danger, the new hordes of Mongols armed with modern technology', being one of many Russian academics seeing the conflict as a 'crusade', a war between civilisation and barbarism;[1] it led an 'educated liberal' to see the conflict as one against the hordes of Asia.[3]

He was Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University by 1904.[1] In 1905 he was elected rector of Moscow University; but he died just a month later, of brain haemorrhage.


Nikolai Trubetskoy, the linguist, was his son.

S. N. Trubetskoy's brother, Evgenii Nikolaevitch (1863-1920), was also a philosopher and a Professor at Moscow University, who largely shared S. N. Trubetskoy's beliefs. Evgenii Trubetskoy died of typhus in the Crimea while he was trying to emigrate.

Works and beliefs

Working in the same field as Solovyov, Trubetskoy sought to establish a philosophic foundation for an Orthodox Christian worldview, which would be equally rooted in faith and reason. In 1890 he defended his Master's thesis, "Metaphysics in Ancient Greece", in which he argued that the Holy Scripture and Christian theology largely stemmed directly from the idealistic philosophy of ancient Greece.

The religious beliefs of Trubetskoy are sometimes defined as Christocentrism. In other words, Christianity and the Church are an incarnation of the personality of Jesus in human society, which convey His teachings to people. These views are set forth in Trubetskoy's work, The Teaching on Logos. Trubetskoy believed that the personality of Christ, which combined human and divine conscience, was the crucial problem for the understanding of all aspects of the Christianity. He viewed Christianity not solely as a set of ethical teachings but as one which can be perceived and understood exclusively through special revelation. His viewpoint differed both from the official doctrine of the Orthodox Church and from the beliefs of liberal intellectuals, who reduced the Christian faith to an egalitarian ethical system.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Figes, p. 168
  2. Figes, p. 38
  3. Figes, p. 169


Further reading

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